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How to prepare your car for driving in France


A trip to the other side of the Channel in your own car is a very exciting prospect, and takes the hassle away from the logistics of airline travel. The number of small factors that need to be addressed is off-putting; getting to the airport, booking airport parking, keeping the kids under control, and the countless number of other small expenses that add up before you’ve even got to your French destination. All this makes the outlook of self-drive travel to France a much more appealing option. Although preparation is still required, everything can take place at home and then simply be packed into your boot before setting off.

In order to avoid any charges while driving, or to know what you should do in case you are ever asked to stop by the French police, we recommend some prior research into everything you might need to avoid a headache of a holiday. To make sure you’re fully equipped for the journey and your time in France, we’ve put together some tips to guide you through your preparation process.



You will need your full driving licence (card and paper counterpart), your Vehicle Registration Document (V5), insurance documents, European breakdown cover policy documents, and a European Accident Statement form. A letter of authority is required if you are using a company car.

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC cards) were introduced in 2006 as a replacement for the E111 form, and will allow you to see a French doctor if you have an accident or feel unwell. It’s advisable to have them, and if you have previously possessed one it will also be worth ensuring that it is still valid!



It is a requirement in France to display a nationality sticker on your car, as well as carrying a spare light bulb set, beam deflectors, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher. Other pieces of essential kit include a fluorescent vest to wear if you have a breakdown (which needs to be worn on exit of your vehicle, so keep this in an accessible place), and a warning triangle that complies with European regulations. The requirement for carrying an NF Approved breathalyser kit came into effect in 2012, however this legislation was updated a year later to indefinitely postpone the €11 fine for any drivers who fail to comply with this requirement.


Car checks

As you should do before any long drive, it is essential to ensure that your vehicle is properly equipped and meets European regulations - check your tyre tread, pressure, oil and water, brakes and lights.


Driving terminology

A handful of French driving terminology will help you out tremendously if you are ever asked to stop by the French police. While you can be following all the rules and regulations, the Gendarme has become more unrelenting in recent years at stopping British travellers, or performing roadside vehicle checks. This is usually just to ensure you have all the required kit in place, and will be nothing to worry about if all regulations are met.


European breakdown cover

Most insurance will allow you to drive on the continent, but will only provide third party cover at best. Therefore a European breakdown assistance policy will provide the reassurance you need for the unexpected event of car trouble while in France, and will save you considerable amounts of time and money if anything does go wrong. Check our single trip and annual policies pages for cheap European breakdown cover.

Author: Paul Quigley
21 November 2014